Speaker Series - Producing: A How-To


Producers are essential to creating media and hold some of the most powerful positions in entertainment. Yet the role of “producer” is often hard to define, especially as its meaning varies across the field. Anticipating the launch of the WIF Emerging Producer Program, join us in conversation with leading producers in both film and television, independent and studio-based, for a deep dive into what it means to be a working producer, how to make it into a career, and what the industry should be doing to make producing an accessible and sustainable livelihood. Event panelists are Avril Speaks, Yolanda Cochran, Nina Yang Bongiovi, and Deniese Davis; moderated by Moira Griffin. 


Thursday, April 29th 6:00 p.m. PT



Our Speaker Series is co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood and the West Hollywood Women's Advisory Board. It is also presented with the support of the City of West Hollywood's WeHo Arts program. For more information, please visit or follow via social media @WeHoArts.

This program is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Department of Arts and Culture.



Avril Speaks: Avril Speaks has been carving out her path as a bold, innovative content creator for several years, not only as a producer and director but also during her former days as a professor at Howard University. Avril produced the award-winning film Jinn, which premiered in Narrative Competition at SXSW and won Special Jury Recognition for Writing. Jinn gained distribution through MGM/Orion Classics and continues to be seen throughout the world. Avril has also produced several films including Hosea and the upcoming comedy Dotty & Soul, starring Leslie Uggams, Gary Owen, David Koechner and Margot Bingham. Her latest projects include the South African film African America, which premiered at the Pan African Film Festival, and the docu-series Black America Is…, which has received support from The Blackhouse Producer’s Lab, the CNN/Film Independent Docu-Series Intensive, and the Kettering Foundation. Avril was an Associate Producer on the TNT docu-series “American Race” and has helped produce both scripted and unscripted content for BET, Coca-Cola, Essence, and others. She was recently a producing consultant for Wayfarer Studios’ Six Feet Apart Experiment film project, and was producer of the short film Black Prom, which aired on Netflix Film Club. 

Avril has been selected for producing labs with Film Independent, Sundance, IFP, Rotterdam and Cannes, and Sundance. Avril serves as board chair for Level Ground, an award-winning artist collective and production studio creating experiments in empathy, and she is a contributing writer for She has also directed two feature films, The Round Table and the award-winning Sophisticated Romance.


Nina Yang Bongiovi: NINA YANG BONGIOVI (Co-Founder, Significant Productions/Creative Partner, AUM Group). Nina is a producer with in-depth knowledge of film financing, creative and physical producing, and a knack for discovering talent, like that of Ryan Coogler (Marvel’s Black Panther), whose first film, Fruitvale Station (2013) was produced by Nina and her producing partner, Forest Whitaker. Together under their banner, Significant Productions, Nina and Forest have produced a number of critically-acclaimed films by auteur filmmakers, including Dope (2015) by Rick Famuyiwa, Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015) by Chloe Zhao, Roxanne Roxanne (2018) by Michael Larnell, and Sorry To Bother You (2018) by Boots RileyTheir latest film Passing, Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut based on Nella Larsen’s novel of the same name, premiered at 2021 Sundance Film Festival and will be released this Fall. They also serve as executive producers on EPIX’s hit tv show, Godfather of Harlem. Nina is a board member of Film Independent, The Oscar Grant Foundation, Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE), The Producers Guild of America (PGA), as well as a member of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences’ (AMPAS) Producers Branch and the Television Academy. She is fluent in Mandarin, Chinese, and received her graduate degree in Entertainment Management from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California.


Denies Davis: Deniese Davis began her career producing music videos, short films and digital content including Issa Rae's award-winning web series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl. She is currently a Co-Executive Producer on the HBO Emmy-nominated comedy series Insecure and a Producer on HBO’s Emmy-nominated A Black Lady Sketch Show. After 8 years of producing for Hoorae Media (fka Issa Rae Productions), she recently launched her own production company Reform Media Group while continuing to support ColorCreative, a management company for diverse and emerging writers and filmmakers that she co-founded with Issa in 2014. Originally from Las Vegas, NV, Deniese is an alumna of CUNY-Brooklyn College and the American Film Institute Conservatory. She sits on the board of Black Public Media and is a founding member of AFI's Alumni Council for the Lawrence Herbert Alumni Center (LHAC).


Yolanda Cochran: An experienced and skilled producer, consultant and executive, YOLANDA T.  COCHRAN is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Television  Academy of Arts & Sciences and Board of Directors of the Producers Guild of America.  In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, she took on the role of SVP Live Action  Production at ViacomCBS’ Nickelodeon & Awesomeness where she oversees scripted and unscripted series and specials. In 2016, Cochran (USC alumna) produced a  documentary short and podcast mini-series entitled Breaking the Glass, highlighting and seeking solutions to challenges specific to gender and race in the entertainment industry.  

Cochran previously served as VP Production at Walt Disney Television's Freeform studio and network and prior to that as EVP Physical Production at Warner Bros. affiliated  Alcon Entertainment. Her producing credits include: The Book of Eli, Dolphin Tale 1 & 2,  Something Borrowed; Joyful Noise; Lottery Ticket, The Sisterhood of the Traveling  Pants 2, Beautiful Creatures, Point Break, and The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock which was nominated for an Academy Award®️ for Best Picture. In 2005, Cochran co-wrote and produced an independent thriller entitled Paved with Good Intentions. Other credits from her work below the line include: Life, Blue Streak, Nutty Professor IICoyote Ugly and Dragonfly.  

A former CPA, Cochran is an oenophile and native of Texas with proud familial roots in  Louisiana.



Moira Griffin: MOIRA GRIFFIN is a producer and strategist based in Los Angeles for New Bumper and Paint Filmworks.  In partnership with writer/director Marshall Tyler, NB&P is a newly launched production company working to develop diverse auteur creators across all platforms while championing thought-provoking stories showcasing the frailty and humanity of all people. As the former Executive Director of Production & Creative Labs for 21st Century Fox, she was charged with furthering Fox’s goals to create content that reflected the company’s global audience by attracting diverse storytellers. Previously, she was the head of Diversity Initiatives at the Sundance Institute and has worked with organizations such as Women In Film, Directors Guild of Canada/BC, TED Conferences, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Blackhouse Foundation. A producer and field producer with companies such as PBS, HBO, YouTube, and NBC Universal, and award-winning projects such as "Cap" (HBO), “Night Shift” (exec Produced by Viola Davis), “The New Black” (PBS), “Black Folk Don’t” (PBS/YouTube), “Hug”, and “The Contest” (Cartoon Network) premiering at festivals including Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, AFI Docs, and more, she is consistently focused on helping directors move their projects from development through post.